"That's what we were really focusing on, knowing that Serge Ibaka was not in there," Spurs forward Boris Diaw said. "A team that is not in the paint is a lot different than a team that focus on securing the paint." It's one game, though. The Thunder have been in a variety of holes this postseason, even experiencing a Game 1 blowout loss in their previous series. Ibaka's injury has greatly changed the complexion and feel of this hole, but the Thunder did experience some success on their own offensive end. With only a few days to prepare, Game 1 was somewhat experimental for Brooks and the Thunder, trying to discover lineups and patterns that worked. The first decision was who replaced Ibaka in the starting five, and he went with steady veteran Nick Collison. In 16 minutes, he didn't score and was a minus-7. Brooks searched, playing 11 different combinations, even going to one with Durant at center playing alongside four guards. Jeremy Lamb played for the first time this postseason outside of garbage time mop-up duty.
"We're going to mix up lineups, but we've done it all year," Brooks said. "We've played small, we've played our normal traditional lineup all year. It's nothing new to us."
Something very new, though: Playing without a sweeper to hide all those other defensive blemishes. With the cutting, surgical approach of the Spurs, and the little time the Thunder had to prepare, what happened in Game 1 was to be expected. There's time to adjust, time to rethink, time to reconsider. But Serge Ibaka isn't coming back to fix it. That much we apparently know for sure.
Royce Young's work appears regularly on Daily Thunder, part of the TrueHoop Network